André Dutkowski knows a thing or two about design. As a senior manager at Mercedes-Benz Cars, Dutkowski is responsible for overseeing the local product management and strategy of a global company built on more than 130 years of design experience. “Our design philosophy is sensual purity,” says Dutkowski. “It’s a combination of technology and function without sacrificing beauty and what we call ‘modern luxury’,” says Dutkowski. “And it’s also about being ahead of its time.”
Dutkowski is one of the judges and mentors for this year’s Mercedes-Benz Design Award, in partnership with Broadsheet. Now in its third year, the award seeks to uncover new Australian design talent and help kick-start their careers.
This year the award is calling for design entries that enhance the dining space – be it furniture, lighting, crockery or wall hangings – and is open to designers of any experience. The winning designer will have their design manufactured and sold in Australia by design retailer Cult Design and will receive a trip to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, and mentorship from Richard Munao of Cult Design, interior architect George Livissianis, acclaimed industrial designer Adam Goodrum, and Dutkoswki at Mercedes-Benz.
“We want to empower designers and give them a platform,” says Dutkowski of the award’s mission. “I also hope to add a global perspective to the award. I think we can help prepare Australian design talent for the global market.”
Great design is timeless
Richard Munao is familiar with this concept. His company Cult Design has spent the past 20 years nurturing up-and-coming designers from Australia and New Zealand as well as collaborating with legendary overseas brands such as Cappellini, Cassina and the Republic of Fritz Hansen. Munao says great design seeks to withstand culture’s shifting tastes and trends.
“If you look at Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair or Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chair, you wouldn’t think they were designed in the 1940s or 1950s,” says Munao. “They would sit just as well in a beach house today. So I’m always looking for products that age gracefully and have longevity. Not just in the construction but in lifespan. Designing something that’s going to last, and from an aesthetic point of view doesn’t date in people’s minds, is every designer’s dream.”
A long-time supporter of initiatives that develop design talent, Munao says he’ll be looking for a design that solves a problem and achieves something in a clever way, “whether it’s about technique or environment or price point.” And I’m looking for something that could be taken anywhere in the world. I think we need to shoot wider than Australia.”
New, simple and subtle
George Livissianis is the interior architect behind much-loved Sydney restaurants The Apollo, Billy Kwong and Cho Cho San. He’s known for a minimalist, considered aesthetic that depends more on texture than statements. But for the Mercedes-Benz Design Award he says he’ll have an eye out for strong new ideas.
“I like really simple, beautifully designed things that are well-resolved with subtle details,” he says. “Creativity and originality are so important. To me, when you see [something original] you know it.”
Livissianis, who was himself mentored by Ian Halliday at acclaimed New York and Sydney architecture firm Burley Katon Halliday, says awards are a great opportunity for a newer generation of designers to test the strengths of their approach – whatever their tools.
“I think the tools that can now generate design are really interesting,” says Livissianis. “Whether it’s 3D printing or the way things are digitally modelled. This intrigues me because I think with a pencil, not a computer. Not that I think one is lesser than the other, but it does influence the design process.”
Ideas are more valuable than tools
As a young designer, Adam Goodrum won accolades including Young Designer of the Year and the Bombay Sapphire Design Award. But his trajectory accelerated when his Stitch folding chair was manufactured by the Milanese company Cappellini and ranked among the best designs of 2008 by the London Design Museum. He says great design submissions are ones that can be practically translated to the real world, whatever their inception.
“If I’m designing a chair, the inspiration will never come from another chair,” he says. “Instead it comes from fashion, the way people behave, or my thoughts. My Stitch chair was a folding chair because I was experimenting with paper and cardboard, looking for a mechanism that would articulate two dimensions into three dimensions. It’s hard to explain but there has to be a poetry in the form, the composition, the way it looks. And if a designer can produce it at a good price point, even better.”
Looking back to move forward
Once the winning design is selected by the judges, the winner of the Mercedes-Benz Design Award will have their design manufactured and sold by Cult Design and will visit the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Dutkowski says the museum is a perfect microcosm of the innovative design principles the car manufacturer has finessed in its 131 years. “We permanently show 160 vehicles there as well as over 1500 exhibits,” he says. “And the building is an architectural marvel in itself. We really believe it demonstrates a design history that will point the way ahead. This is certainly something up and coming Australian talent can benefit from and I’m very much looking forward to seeing some inspirational designs.”
The winner of the Mercedes-Benz Design Award by Broadsheet will receive:
Their design prototyped, manufactured and sold by Cult Design
Mentorship from Australia's design leaders
A trip for two to Germany